Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe it’s not.
Phil Mickelson has won three green jackets, in 2004 at the age of 33, then in 2006 at 35 and 2010 at 39.
Bubba Watson has won two green jackets, in 2012 at 33, then in 2014 at 35. If he won this year, Watson would get his third Masters victory at the age of — you guessed it — 39.
Did we mention they are both left-handed and are separated by one spot in the world ranking?
As fate would have it, Watson arrives in Georgia with a tremendous chance to complete the trifecta and mirror Mickelson. Watson has come out of seemingly nowhere, capturing the Genesis Open and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play to reach No. 19 in the world. He started the year No. 89.
“Seven months ago I did not believe it, you know?” Watson said. “But like I’ve said throughout these two wins when I’ve been interviewed, my team around me, John Solheim with Ping is like my granddad, my dad, my father figure. Ted Scott’s been on the bag for 12 years. My wife. Pro Sport Management, all the people there, they have cheered me on and they have helped me come out of a dark place.”
Although Watson’s Masters history is feast or famine — he missed the cut last year and has never sniffed contention outside of his two wins — there is no doubt the course fits his imagination and shotmaking ability. He paints with a different brush and sees lines many can’t, a major advantage on a course with wild slopes and contours.
The ultimate difference could be the putter.
The two years prior to this season were rough rides for Watson on the greens (165th and 145th in strokes gained putting in 2016 and 2017, respectively), but he is 80th this season, meaning he is now picking up shots on the average player. That’s good enough to win given how he drives the ball (sixth in strokes gained off the tee).
Regardless, it will be a stiff test for all players involved. Nobody has ever shot four rounds in the 60s at the Masters, proving just how difficult an exam Augusta National has been throughout the years.
“It’s the best test in the world,” Watson said. “I mean, it’s the greatest sporting event I believe in the world.”
He’s passed that test twice before. Could this be the week he makes it three?